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Obama inaugurates YouTube-side chats

'Good evening, friends, Tron guy, Star Wars kid, sneezing panda...'

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US President-elect Barack Obama plans to use YouTube to modernize the traditional White House weekly radio address.

In addition to audio, Obama will for the first time release a video recording of the Democratic address this Saturday, his office said today. The video will be posted to Obama's transition site, Change.gov.

"President-elect Obama will continue to record and make available the Democratic radio addresses on video when he is in the White House," transition team spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "No President-elect or President has ever turned the radio address into a multi-media opportunity before."

The Obama camp is certainly no stranger to Web 2.0, relying heavily on social network sites like MySpace, FaceBook, and Twitter to connect with potential voters and raise funds during his presidential campaign.

Shapiro said the Obama White House also plans to hold regular video interviews and question and answer chats online.

The team already fired up the 'Tube on Thursday, uploading a video of co-chair Valerie Jarret explaining planned lobbying restrictions for the upcoming administration.

"This is just one of the many ways that president-elect Obama will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent," Shapiro said.

Some like CNET News blogger Chris Soghoian criticize the Obama camp's decision to exclusively host videos on the Google-owned player. He points out that although YouTube is by far the dominant online video provider, the White House has effectively chosen one company to deliver its message.

Presidential radio addresses have been a long-standing tradition in the US. The format was first used in the 1930s by Franklin Roosevelt, who urged listeners to have faith in the banks during the Great Depression.

Modernizing the weekly addresses unfortunately makes a lot of sense during the country's present-day economic woes. ®

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